Jovana Boljanić was born in Sokolac, there she completed her elementary and secondary education. She is an activist and an artist, she writes plays and poetry which reveal the beauty of diversity. In Sokolac we talked about her reflections, her likes and dislikes, and life in general
My intellectual development and my true education actually began after I graduated from secondary school. Although I had been lucky to have met Jelena, a wonderful woman who is no longer with us, who was my mentor, together with professor Nevenka, although she was not my professor of Serb Language and Literature, but somehow we met and she saw in me this entusiasm for the written word, this love for literature and the arts. So, somehow, these two women were the main drivers for me, because, prior to meeting, talking and hanging out with them I did not even feel the need, nor courage, to express myself, to show off, to be creative, neither in Sokolac nor anywhere else.
After them, my real education started, and I will never remember the key and crucial moment when I had felt so embarrassed. It was a trip with my friends and colleagues, with some professors of the comprehensive secondary school, also from the Serb Society for Education and Culture from Sarajevo, and some professors from the Academy.
We travelled to Mostar, and visited a monastery in the vicinity of Mostar, and the location of the Kravice Waterfall. I felt so sad, because I had never heard about that waterfall. I did not know how to react, and I would never forget it. So, it is a waterfall in the state I live in, the state whose emblem is on my passport, on my ID. I felt so bad. It might be an anecdote and an example of black humour, but then I felt a bit better when I met Irma, a colleague from Visoko, who never heard about the Bileća Lake, which is beautiful, and we were both nature lovers. So we met and then we travelled and interacted and, in time, learnt about all our natural, geographic beauties that are in our BiH, not just in one of the entities.
I tried on to work as presenter. I remembered being praised for beautiful enunciation, so, through the programs I had the chance to present I found courage to cherish this passion I had carried for so long, to release it and to get on stage. So my appearances began. I performed in monodramas, plays, recitals… I did recitation in school, but somehow, all that started later, after my secondary school graduation – from Sokolac and the region to the Sarajevo Theater, to the Serb Society for Education and Culture in Sarajevo, to the Festival of Women’s Arts and Activism in BiH, which is held every second week in September.
And all this had, somehow, a positive influence on me. I became more confident, I started writing actively, i.e. I started publishing my verses, my poems, my works. Then, through my appearances and interaction with people, I met such wonderful people, tallented artists and athletes.
I also met a lot of sad people. I heard some of their stories, and I decided to help them in some way. But my help comes down to these verses, which I will publish, and someone will read them. I can be a proactive citizen of BiH and I can express this activism and, what may be, my revolutionary spirit, through my writing. And some people said that it actually might be wise, that a lot can be expressed through poetry, and so many problems could be highlighed.
I am happy when I have a chance to meet someone I can talk to frankly about anything. That it does not come down to fashion trends, some individuals celebrated among the youth only because of drugs, alcohol, overindulgence, poor taste, nudity, or some nationalist or politically-motivated abuse of young minds. It is a very widespread attitude here these days, that you, as a person, as an individual, cannot find a job, get an opportunity to show your abilities and achieve certain things, unless you are in a political party.
My sole goal is to live my life, to enjoy the moment, to help myself, my inner self, to express itself, and, certainly, to help my friends and family, and that we find pleasant things to talk about.
You haven’t left BiH. What kept you here, and would you leave?
I like it where I am. I also like to travel, and I visited a number of countries, and I particularly liked Greece, because I also like Greek mythology and enjoy their music. And I would love to go to America for a while, travel around a bit.
But just to leave BiH, I don’t want that. I want to live here, I want to be free, to express myself freely, to act freely. I want us all to be free in the sense that we can afford what we need. And we know what our people are like. We are not so demanding. I wish the situation would change for the better for all of us, so we could be happy here. Say, my parents, just after graduating from high school, they automatically had jobs. Whoever wanted to work, had a job, could earn enough to get a haircut, by hygienic products, to travel, to go to summer and winter vacations… Nowadays we all run into problems with all that, and this is the main topic for most people – about young people, about unemployment. Everyone is unhappy – from pensioners to students and young mothers…
We do not have a middle class. Our problem is that we are either extremely poor or there are individuals who are extremely rich. I wish that problem would be sorted out, for the benefit of all.
Because I see Bosnia and Herzegovina as geographically most beautiful country. Even some of my acquaintances and friends from abroad who came to visit, they were delighted. The were delighted with our people, in the context of their kindness, they loved our food, they were delighted with the nature, our landscapes. Perhaps something can be done to boost the eco, or rural tourism. I believe that would help us a lot in recovery. I firmly believe it.
I would really want to stay here and, together with those who enjoy it, to share knowledge, to work in intellectual advancement, that we all look out for each other, trust each other. I think we are also a little short of trust, a bit deficient in that department.
I believe in a sense of community, I believe in love and I want peace, and what I am most afraid of, I hope no one will force me to leave. And the only thing that can make me leave, as we already have had cases of people who leave looking for a job, to secure a better life for themselves abroad – they were forced to leave. Politicians are causing it, probably in collusion, and they are making people leave. But it is really like cutting the branch you are sitting on. AndI know that there are many young people, and in general, so many people who think just as I do, who want to remain here.
Will you read a poem for us, a poem of your own choosing.
I can do that. I enjoy writing, because it is my therapy, it relaxes me and makes me happy. And it makes me happier still when I see that people who read it feel good.
I shall read a poem, about love, about a past love. Or about love that is always somewhere, just barely present, in a little corner….
I lost one love, which burnt up in its fire.
I did not trust that he wanted to sup under my arm.
To lay and to rise exactly where I burn the most,
I noticed it not from the mirror in my room.
I needed those gentle touches,
Frozen cheeks, round and red from the clutches of frst.
I lost his wide back,
His strong arms he used to capture my naked shoulders.
My dreams are weird nowadays, showing some reality I am not prepared for.
Am I disturbing you, o stale waters of barrels and wells?
While under the drainpipe, my head is wet with rain,
That flows down my cheeks.
All that burns like a volcano in the valley of our souls.
He wanted, but I… I did not dare.
So I lost one love I no longer have, by bare feet are flattening your pride!
I scream at your calm, which defies the slackness in my chest.
While a storm is brewing in my innards,
I sink again in sweet sweat.
I dream how distant reaches mowed my hope.
Unendingly I call your name, but I am getting worse, because it’s dried like aftergrass.
It’s worse because you refuse to set food in the minefield, and I get it,
Which is the worst.
I flatten your origins, and all the paths that lead to me!
I hammer the boxes of your seed, let it spill on me.
So that, whenever you turn, you cannot leave your mark, except on my naked thighs.
Where you left the beads of sweet sweat and hot blood!
Curse on the breath of any other whose glance smote you.
When she is sated and her loins are fed, may she breathe her last over your stomac.
Better that you bury her at the height of ecstasy, better, because it will hurt less. Show her you are the One! The One who leaves any other bite of mouldy bread, taste of stagnant water and odour of stale blood!